Three ways that mCommerce is different from eCommerce

Unlike a desktop or even a laptop, the smartphone is all about mobility, location and utility.  We’ve mentioned previously how crucial it is for merchants to consider this when mapping out their mobile strategies, and while most players still apply traditional web-driven strategies to their mobile channel, there are other examples of those who were savvy enough to identify the emerging consumer needs in the mobile space.

Comparison shopping on the go

Companies such as NexTag, and PriceGrabber, deserted the mobile browser for mobile apps that made comparison shopping information quicker and easier for consumers to obtain. Thus, enriching the consumer’s shopping experience by enabling them to utilize the smartphone to aid with the purchasing process at the store. In one click a consumer is able now to compare product prices, read customer reviews and ratings, and tap into information not necessarily printed on the packaging. The RedLaser app takes comparison shopping one step further -  the smartphone camera is used for scanning product barcodes and then returning a wealth of information on competitive pricing, customer reviews, and nearby store locations (based on GPS) where the scanned item is available.

Transact anytime and anywhere

Large eCommerce players such as Ebay and Amazon were not far behind as well. They were able to leverage their prized assets, their respective payment gateway solutions to enable a one-click purchase process from their apps. Today, the two eCommerce giants account for 70% of the total mCommerce marketplace.  The success of both companies stems from realizing early on that simply adapting their web-driven processes to the mobile space was not suffice and they looked for that “added value” factor. Ebay utilized inherent smartphone functions such as the camera to enable consumers to photograph and list an item in 60 seconds or less. Amazon recognized that the action of shopping does not necessarily need to occur within a store. We’re shopping even while visiting a friend’s house. “Amazon Remembers,” a feature in the Amazon iPhone app allows users now to take a photograph of an item they cherish to own themselves and within a matter of a few hours Amazon will track the item and add it to the user’s Amazon shopping cart.

“Meta" shopping experience and the endless aisle

Innovation in the mobile space is occurring at blazing speeds. Companies are rushing now to develop new apps which will answer emerging consumer needs as well as try to forecast what consumer needs may be in the future. And the future is near.

The emergence of the augmented reality (AR) category of apps is paving the road for mobile commerce to fulfill its promise to provide a multi-dimensional shopping experience. Take for example the mobile app Layar, which combines information from sources such as Yelp, Wikipedia, Flickr and Youtube and integrates it into the physical world using the mobile-camera screen.  While walking through a city, users can look through the iPhone’s screen and be exposed to Yelp listings of restaurants and bars near them, wikipedia information about a location and Flickr photos taken from where they’re standing.  The creators of Layar were also smart to recognize that they couldn’t possibly think of all the data layers users would want to see, so they allowed external developers to add data layers to their app.

Tamar Levin is a research analyst at Magento and a seven-year veteran in the Market Research and Insight Industry.  Prior to Magento, Tamar was staff research manager at one of the world’s leading market-research agencies, TNS (part of WPP’s insight consultancy), where she conducted global-market & industry analysis spanning 75 countries.